Month: August 2018

IBM and other companies now claim to be loosening college degree requirements.

August 29, 2018 Incoherent ramblings , , , , ,

Here’s an article about companies that are starting to drop college and university degree requirements.

I’ve been expecting this for years.

I really enjoyed university and much of what I learned on my undergrad engineering degree. However, most of the skills that I required for software development, I learned on the job at IBM on my student internship, not from my undergrad engineering degree. I was very disappointed in the software engineering course that I took in university, as it was primarily droning on about waterfall models and documentation driven development, and had very little substantive content. I learned a lot of mathematics and physics at UofT, but very little of it was useful. I was once really pleased with myself when I figured out that I could do compute some partial derivatives on the job to compute error-bars in some statistical performance analysis, but that one time calculation, was the only non-trivial math I ever used in about 20 years at IBM. In short, most of the specifics I learned at University were of little value.

My view of the engineering degree I obtained, was that it was mental training. They tossed problems at us, and we solved them. By the time you were done your undergrad degree, you knew (or at least believed) that you could solve any problem. There’s definitely value to developing that mental discipline, and there’s value to the employer as a filtering mechanism. Interestingly, my first manager at IBM as a full time employee told me that they preferred hiring new engineering graduates over new computer science graduates. That is despite the fact that many of the computer science courses are quite difficult (computer graphics, optimizing compilers, …), and arguably more relevant than all the physics biased courses that we did in engineering. Perhaps that preference was due to the problem solving bias of engineering school?

An apprenticeship based recruitment system can potentially save software companies a lot of money, as it should provide cheap labor for the company and a valuable opportunity to learn real skills for the apprentice. It’s a good deal for both parties.  You can get paid to learn, vs. going to school, and paying to learn things that are not truly valuable. I’ve actually been very surprised that IBM, who is offshoring so aggressively to save money, has not yet clued in that they can hire students directly out of high school (or earlier!), for much less than the price tag that a university/college graduate would demand. While offshoring is nominally cheap, unless the whole team is moved, it introduces large latencies and inefficiencies in development processes. Hiring out of high school would provide companies like IBM that are desperate to reduce their costs, the chance of acquiring cheap local talent, free of the hassles and latencies of splitting the team to pay some members offshore rates, less benefits, and so forth.

Assuming that a university degree is not actually useful, the problem to be solved is one of filtering. How does a company evaluate the potential of an untrained candidate without using (potentially useless) accreditation as a filter? I’d guess that we will see a transition to IQ style testing (although that is illegal in some locals) and a bias for hiring youth with demonstrated interest and proven open source project contribution history.

The original owner of my house didn’t like grounding circuits?!!

August 27, 2018 Home renos , ,

Each time I open an electrical outlet in my house that looks like it wasn’t original, I expect to be horrified. The original owner of my house did some very sloppy wiring. I had dangling wires all over the basement (he hid those with a drop ceiling), but I was able to tidy up without too much trouble.  He also seemed to have a general aversion to physically connecting any ground wires.  I found another example of this when I took off the old bathroom light:

Notice how there’s no ground wire attached to this box. It was even more mysterious before I starting trying to cut into the drywall beside the outlet, which was exploratory. I wanted to see if the ground wire had been cut before it was fed into the box. I was also curious about the non-standard electrical connector (i.e. it’s not a clamp) that had been used to feed the wire through.

What I found was another electrical box that was plastered over, which I believe is an Ontario electrical code violation. Here’s what it looked like after I took off the cover plate:

The wire that was fed into the box that the bathroom light was connected to passed through a piece of gas fitting pipe, which was loosely connected with a pair of twisty nuts (one removed in the picture above). I suppose that there was some ground connection of the secondary box through the gas-fitting pipe, but it wasn’t in very securely, and isn’t what I’d want to protect my house from catching on fire due to bad electrical wiring.

Incidentally, that secondary box wasn’t physically connected to a stud at all. What held it in place was:

  1. The loosely connected gas fitting pipe.
  2. Plaster.
  3. Kleenex or toilet paper that had been jammed into the hole, against the side of the box like so:

The Kleenex had some drywall compound on it, and it was that combination of drywall compound, Kleenex, and the loose gas fitting pipe that was supporting the light. Needless to say, that light sagged a bit, but I hadn’t gotten to handling it until now.

We now have a light that is properly grounded, and physically connected to the original wiring box:

I haven’t actually filled in the hole left by removing the secondary octagon box yet, and have temporarily installed the light in the bathroom so the space is usable. I thought I was almost finished the patching in the bathroom, but now have some more to do.

Misc home improvement progress.

August 8, 2018 Home renos , , ,

I’ve now got all but a very light skim coat left in my office (plus some sanding and priming), and then I’ll be ready to paint.  This spot had 6 really really bad patches from the old home owner:

He patched with some sort of gummy crap, and it left a visible mess.  I had to scrape all his patches off completely (in other places around the house too), and patch from scratch.  This left a mess, as the gummy patch compound he used ripped off the surface of the drywall in a few places, but it’s now almost done.

The office walls are now officially more patches than anything else:

Here you can see the patch from taking out the ancient intercom system, as well as an ancient unused electrical box that once had security system wiring in it.  Here’s a view of the home office

The big giant patch at the back was where the old home owner made his (very badly insulated) cutout into the garage for a CRT TV.  It’s now skim coated, sanded and primed.  The office is really dusty from that sanding, so I need to vacuum thoroughly.

I also got the outlet in the master bedroom sanded and primed today:

That’s where the ancient ceiling fan controller (and something else) used to be.  I consolidated that down to one box, and rerouted some of the electrical.  I had to put something there, and we now have a somewhat strange outlet up on the wall, but that actually worked well for a TV plug when we had a TV in the bedroom (we gave it away, but will eventually get a new one).

And finally, the bathroom is ready for the tile guys, with the casing on the window frame now installed.  Tile is going to run up the wall under it (and one the sides a little bit up the wall around the frame) :

It was nice to have an excuse to use my compressor.  It wasn’t a virgin, but was pretty close.

Moving an electrical outlet 4″ up in the bathroom.

August 5, 2018 Home renos

We are putting in a freestanding bathtub in our bathroom, and are having the tile run up the wall up to 42″. Unfortunately the bottom of the countertop electrical outlet was sitting there at about 40″. When I pointed this out to the tile guy, he suggested that I try to move it, either up or down (but preferably up).

Unfortunately, I’d already done all my drywall repairs on the sink side of the shower (as I’d removed the ugly medicine cabinet), so I really wasn’t looking forward to this task. It would have been so easy when I had the wall all open!

I vaguely remembered that there was slack in the electrical lines, and that I’d tidied up that wire with an electrical staple when I rebuilt the shower stall, so I thought I’d be able to move it up. I opened things up, being very careful in my removal of the box to not nick any wires, and found out that there was enough slack available that I could move the box up:

A bit of strapping and I had rough drywall back in place, and a first coat of mud on:

The almost finished (I need a final skim coat to smooth out some rough bits before sanding and priming) product looks pretty good: